Reviews, Vol I, Issue IV
“A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
Voices come and voices go, but rare are the voices which stay with you. They linger in your head making a space for themselves for evermore. Such is the voice of Sandip Roy in his debut novel Don’t Let Him Know. Hailing from the backdrop of Calcutta and ranging to the U.S. (published by Bloomsbury India) it is the story of a family whose members hold different personal secrets throughout their lives, trying to keep it enveloped within their heart by hiding it from others (the others, who are their own). Trapped in the complexities of love, responsibility and personal emotions, it is an intriguing tale, engaging the lives of multiple generations.
The narrative begins with an unnerving conversation heading between Romola Mitra and her son Amit who has recently discovered a part of an old letter, the last page in fact, hidden in an old address book. He considers it a love letter from a long-lost lover of his mother, finding it signed by an unknown, without any address. According to the note, it is a man from past who tends to profess his affection for the recipient and at the same time shows his regret on being betrayed.
“Romola sat there in Amit’s armchair slightly stunned. After all these years how could she have been so careless? She knew she had saved the letter, unable to destroy it the way she should have years ago. She remembered reading it and rereading it, each word striking her like a sledgehammer, cracking her open over and over again. She had always meant to throw it away, shred it, but somehow she never could. She had hidden it instead – stashed away like a secret pain. But she had never meant Amit to see it.”
However, the truth is revealed in the next chapter when the readers find out that this letter was written to Amit’s father Avinash who has recently passed away. Avinash was, in reality, a gay man who married Romola, to fulfil his responsibility as the only son of his family, keeping his true identity concealed.
It happens in Illinois, U. S., when Romola Mitra, the newly wed wife of Avinash comes to know about his secret affair with his childhood friend, Sumit, when she accidently opens the wrong letter while waiting for her first letter from home in India. Although, Avinash never gets any hint about the secret of his wife, who once upon a time romanced a dashing filmstar, Subir Kumar.
Whilst these larger than life seeming secrets, there linger many other secrets related to various other characters of the narrative too.
While the tale telling takes place in series of fast forward technique, the detailed description of Roy’s intriguing characters and captivating situations prove alluring, keeping the readers glued, until the narrative ends from where it began –
Don’t let him know she liked them best
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Sandip Roy is Senior Editor at the popular news portal Firstpost.com and blogs for the Huffington Post. He has been a longtime commentator on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, one of the most listened-to radio programmes in the US, and has a weekly radio postcard for public radio in San Francisco Bay Area. He is also an editor with New America Media. Sandip has won several awards for journalism and contributed to various anthologies including Storywallah!, Contours of the Heart, Out! Tories from the New Queer India, New California Writing 2011 and The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexualities in Contemporary India. Sandip lives in Kolkata.
Reviewed by Varsha Singh